Sous Vide Carnitas
With sous vide, there's also no real chance of overcooking. With a slow-cooking, extra-forgiving cut like pork shoulder, which is high in both connective tissue and fat, even if you overshoot by half a day your end results are going to still be incredible. I know: I tested it to find out! The other great thing about cooking sous vide is that because the pork is sealed inside a bag, there's no need to add any additional fat whatsoever. The fat rendering off the pork shoulder as it cooks gets distributed around the bag, essentially allowing the pork to tenderize in its own juices. The results? Extra-moist carnitas time after time.
Sous Vide Carnitas Cooking Temperatures
145°F / 63°C for 24 to 36 hours - Very tender and moist, not very shreddable. Better for cubing or searing as slabs.
165°F / 74°C for 12 to 24 hours - Shreddable with your hands or forks, and moist.
185°F / 85°C for 8 to 16 hours - Traditional texture with meat that shreds naturally.
J. Kenji López-Alt
J. Kenji López-Alt is the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, author of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, and a columnist for Cooking Light. He lives in San Francisco. A New York native, Kenji cut his cooking chops the old-fashioned way by working his way up through the ranks of some of Boston's finest restaurants. With an education in science and engineering and as a former Senior Editor at Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen, Kenji is fascinated by the ways in which understanding the science of every day cooking can help improve even simple foods. He earned a James Beard award for his first book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, which he released in September 2016. It is available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Prep Time: 00:30
Recipe Time: 12:00
- Very tender and moist, best seared as slabs or cubed
- 145F / 62.8C
- Moist and tender, shreddable with your hands or forks
- 165F / 73.9C
- Traditional texture with meat that shreds naturally
- 185F / 85C
- 4 pounds / 1.8kg boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch-thick slabs
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 6 medium cloves garlic
- 1 stick cinnamon, broken into 3 to 4 pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 medium orange, peel intact
- Kosher salt
- --TO SERVE--
- Warm corn tortillas
- Lime wedges
- Chopped white onion and fresh cilantro leaves
- Salsa verde (or any salsa of your preference)
- For better flavor penetration, first cut the pork into thick slabs. About 4 pounds is enough to serve 8 to 12 people once the meat is cooked. You can easily make half a batch, but carnitas freeze extremely well, so think about making the full order!
- Next, combine pork, onion, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves in a large bowl. Split orange into quarters and squeeze juice into bowl before adding rest of orange. Season generously with kosher salt and toss to combine.
- When ready to cook, set your Anova to desired temperature according to chart included above or in the Anova Culinary App.
- Add bag to sous vide bath and cook for recommended time according to chart above. Make sure to top water up occasionally as it evaporates, and keep bag completely submerged. If bag floats, weigh it down by placing a wet kitchen towel on top of it. Alternatively, use a heavy-duty binder clip to attach a metal spoon or knife to bottom of bag as a weight.
Finishing Steps - Oven
- When meat is cooked, remove from water bath and transfer contents of bag to a large bowl. Pick out chunks of meat with a set of tongs and transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet. (Discard aromatics and excess liquid, or reserve liquid and blend it in with salsa.) When it is cool enough to handle, shred meat roughly using 2 forks or your fingers.
- Spread evenly over baking sheet. Pork can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 5 days before serving.
- When ready to serve, adjust an oven rack to 3 inches below the broiler element and preheat broiler to high. Place pork under broiler and cook, using a spoon to flip pieces occasionally, until meat is browned and crisp on most sides, about 10 minutes total. Alternatively, working in batches, heat carnitas in a cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes.
- Serve carnitas with warm tortillas, lime wedges, chopped onion and cilantro, and salsa.